product guides

The Skin of the Skyscraper: Innovations in Cladding for High Rise Buildings


The towering high-rises that punctuate city skylines are marvels of modern engineering. Beyond the structural core of these giants lies another essential component: the cladding. In essence, cladding systems for high rise buildings act as their skin, and it provides both aesthetic and functional benefits.

What is a Cladding System?

A cladding system is the exterior covering or coat of a building. It serves multiple purposes, from enhancing the appearance to providing protection against external elements. The choice of cladding plays a crucial role in determining the building's overall performance, aesthetic, and longevity.

Types of Cladding Systems for High Rise Buildings

Cladding systems for high rise buildings come in many different forms. Here are some of the most common types of cladding:

Curtain Wall Systems

A non-load bearing system, curtain walls are typically made of lightweight materials that allow for intricate designs and expansive glass areas. They are hung from the building's structure, and create an impressive facade.

Precast Concrete Panels

These are large concrete slabs, precast in factories and then transported to the site. Durable and robust, they offer a streamlined construction process and a modern appearance.

Glass Cladding

A favorite for contemporary designs, glass cladding provides a sleek, reflective surface. It maximizes natural light penetration and offers stunning views for building occupants.

Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP)

ACP offers flexibility in design and is available in various colors and finishes. Lightweight yet durable, they're resistant to weathering and corrosion.

Metal Cladding

From steel to copper, metal cladding is versatile and durable. It can be molded into various shapes, to create unique textures and appearances.

Stone Cladding

For an opulent and timeless look, stone cladding is the choice. It offers natural variation and can be used in both modern and traditional designs.

Fiber Cement Panels

A blend of cement, cellulose fibers, and sand, these panels are known for their durability and resistance to wear and tear.


EIFS is a multi-layered cladding system that provides excellent thermal insulation. It includes an insulating layer, a mesh for added strength, and a final textured finish.

Brick or Brick Veneer

A classic choice, brick creates a warm, rustic appearance. Brick veneers, on the other hand, offer the look and protection of brick without the bulk.

Wood Cladding

For a natural, eco-friendly option, wood cladding is ideal. It brings warmth and texture, though it requires regular maintenance.

Composite Cladding

A combination of materials, composite cladding offers the best of both worlds. It's durable, low maintenance, and available in a myriad of designs.

Benefits of Cladding Systems for High Rise Buildings

Aesthetic Appeal

Cladding transforms a building's appearance, and allows architects to realize their vision and make a statement. Cladding also allows architects to provide structure to the building with one material, to give the building the desired look.

Weather Protection

Cladding acts as a shield against rain, wind, and other environmental elements, to help ensure the building's longevity. Cladding is ideally more likely to wear out before other elements on the building.

Thermal and Acoustic Insulation

Certain cladding materials provide insulation to maintain a building's internal temperature and reduce energy consumption. Cladding can also dampen external noises, to create a quieter environment inside that is more enjoyable for the building’s occupants.


Cladding protects the structural integrity of a building so it stands tall for years to come. Some cladding materials are even designed to be fire-resistant to enhance a building's safety.

Regulatory Compliance

With changing building regulations, especially concerning energy efficiency and safety, the right cladding can help projects meet required standards.

Cladding System Case Studies

Cyan on Peachtree, Atlanta, Georgia

A multi-family project in the heart of Atlanta, Cyan on Peachtree exemplifies the use of EIFS from Sto® to achieve a modern, highly functional, and aesthetically pleasing multi-family concept. Field-built using StoCreativ® Granite and StoTherm® ci Essence, the spacious multi-family complex is committed to sustainability with an ENERGY STAR IREM Certification. The use of EIFS helps to minimize the environmental impact of the building while also highlighting energy performance and sustainable operating practices.

One Palliser Square, Calgary, AB, Canada

An incredible example of aluminum composite panels comes from ALPOLIC and their exterior renovation of One Palliser Square in Calgary. Using ALPOLIC®/fr in multiple colors, ALPOLIC was able to replace the precast concrete that was beginning to fail on the exterior of the building with minimal disruption ALPOLIC MCM’s lightweight and easy installation allowed for upgrades without a total tear down of the wall assembly, totaling 150,000 square feet.

River City Condos, Toronto, Ontario

River City Condos, in Toronto, Ontario is a striking tower that made excellent use of ALPOLIC metal composite panels to achieve a stunningly unique and energy-efficient structure. The building’s facades feature contrasting matte black and gloss white finished panels with randomized balconies to give the building depth and character. With more than 1,000 residential units inside the tower, the LEED Gold certified tower is an example of sustainable architecture and construction.

Deciding on Cladding is Instant with Acelab

Acelab is a materials platform that makes architecture better for architects. Our tools enable you to discover, compare, and specify the right materials for your project quickly and easily. Break the cycle of reusing specs and find the best products for your needs, every time.

With Acelab, users get access to intelligent product recommendations, comprehensive product data, technical specifications, and CAD details from leading manufacturers. Plus, all the tools needed to manage, share, and collaborate at each step.

Make a free account and get instant access to our tools and resources.